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UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement

Volume 698: debated on Monday 28 June 2021

Today, the Government will launch negotiations with Singapore towards a bilateral digital trade agreement, the UK-Singapore digital economy agreement (DEA).

Singapore and the UK are both global leaders in the digital economy, and our bilateral trade was worth £17 billion in 2019, with 70% of services exports digitally delivered.

This new, ambitious agreement will aim to remove barriers to digital trade and enable UK exporters to expand into high-tech markets. It is part of the Government’s strategy to place the UK at the centre of a network of modern free trade agreements with dynamic countries, and to enhance our status as a global hub for services and digital trade.

The UK is the first European country to start negotiations on a digital trade agreement. This is an opportunity for the UK to take the lead in shaping these agreements, and grow our influence on global rules in areas of UK strength such as digital and services. It reflects how the UK is becoming more flexible, more nimble and less defensive in our approach to trade.

The UK is already one of the world’s biggest exporters of services, with remotely delivered services exports worth £207 billion in 2019 alone. International digital trade is now a key driver of productivity and business growth in the UK. It allows British businesses to reach a wider consumer base by selling online, to trade more efficiently and cost-effectively by streamlining shipping, logistics and other trading processes, and to connect and grow their workforce across different regions of the world—sharing the benefits of prosperity.

The DEA can expand the UK’s access to Singapore’s digital economy—worth an estimated £9.4 billion in 2019. Negotiations will focus on:

Securing open digital markets for exporters, allowing them to expand into new markets and sell traditional products in new ways.

Ensuring free and trusted cross-border data flows, while upholding high standards of personal data protection.

Cutting red tape for UK businesses by promoting digital trading systems such as digital customs and border procedures that will save time and money when exporting.

Upholding online consumer rights and protecting businesses’ valuable intellectual property, like source code and cryptography.

Deepening our co-operation on future growth sectors such as FinTech and LawTech, while working with Singapore to strengthen our collective cybersecurity capabilities and keep our countries safe.

Strengthening our trading relationship with Singapore is also part of the Government’s wider trade strategy, which aims to deepen links with one of the fastest growing regions of the world, partnering with countries who believe in free and fair trade.

The DEA can create new opportunities as a gateway to the Asia-Pacific region for tech, high-end services, and digital trade, ultimately supporting and creating high-value jobs across the United Kingdom and helping the country build back better from covid.